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Pacific News Minute: US Navy to Challenge China in the South China Sea

Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet / Flickr
Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet / Flickr

Over the past few days, the US Navy has displayed its power from the Western Pacific to the Indian Ocean, sending aircraft carrier battle groups to exercise with its allies in Tokyo Bay and the Bay of Bengal.  As we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute - the demonstrations come amid widespread expectation of a patrol to challenge Chinese claims in the South China Sea.

The freshly modernized USS Ronald Reagan and the brand new Japanese self-defense maritime forces ship “Izumo” lead an armada of 36 warships.  Vessels from Australia, France, India and South Korea also participated.  In a speech aboard the Ronald Reagan, prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed back the ship that played such a big part in relief efforts following the disastrous earthquake and tsunami four years ago.

At the same time - USS Theodore Roosevelt and it's battle group practiced with Indian and Japanese vessels in the annual Malabar exercise, this year held off Chennai on the Bay of Bengal.

All of which will have been carefully noted in Beijing.  For weeks now, the US has sent unmistakable messages of plans to send a force into the South China Sea.  In Japan last week - Admiral John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, told reporters "We will exercise freedom of navigation through wherever international law will allow”.

Under international law - the artificial islands constructed by Chinese engineers do not gain the twelve-mile territorial limit accorded to natural islands.  China does not agree.  Admiral Richardson spoke of international norms and routine navigation.  Again- China may not agree.  The size of the force the US plans to send isn't known - nor what it plans to do and diplomacy could dictate timing.  The White House may want to wait until Chinese President Xi Jing Ping winds up his current state visit to Britain.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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